In an appeals court decision, the Biden administration’s vaccination and testing requirements for private businesses were reinstated, affecting approximately 80 million Americans.
Sixth U.S. Court of Appeals raised an injunction from November blocking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule, which applies to companies with at least 100 employees.
A 6th Circuit ruling noted that OSHA had a history of utilizing broad discretion to ensure worker safety and that OSHA had “demonstrated the pervasive danger that COVID-19 poses to workers—unvaccinated workers in particular—in their workplaces.”
As a result of the decision, the White House released a statement in support.
“The OSHA vaccination or testing rule will ensure businesses enact measures that will protect their employees,” a spokesperson for the White House said. “Especially as the U.S. faces the highly transmissible Omicron variant, it’s critical we move forward with vaccination requirements and protections for workers with the urgency needed in this moment.”
OSHA said it would not issue citations until Jan. 10 for noncompliance with any of the requirements, and it would not issue citations for the testing requirements until Feb. 9, as long as businesses make “good faith” efforts to comply with the standards.
“To account for any uncertainty created by the stay, OSHA is exercising enforcement discretion with respect to the compliance dates,” a Labor Department spokesperson explained.
Biden’s policy will be decided in a Supreme Court battle by the 6th Circuit. Ken Paxton, Texas’ attorney general, says he will ask the nation’s top court to overturn the vaccines and testing requirements.
As hospitals prepare for a rise in Covid cases this winter and states begin to discover the highly mutated omicron variant, the Justice Department argued last week that blocking the requirements would cause “enormous” harm to the public.
“COVID-19 is spreading in workplaces, and workers are being hospitalized and dying,” according to a court filing by the Justice Department. “As COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise and a new variant has emerged, the threat to workers is ongoing and overwhelming.”
For businesses with 100+ employees, the policy required them to ensure their workers are completely vaccinated by Jan. 4 or submit a negative Covid test each week. Since Dec. 5, employees who haven’t been vaccinated must wear masks indoors.
Private companies and industry groups, including the National Retail Federation, American Trucking Associations, and the National Federation of Independent Business, sued to overturn the policy. The requirement, they argued, burdens businesses with compliance costs and exceeds government authority.
“These assertions ignore the economic analysis OSHA conducted that demonstrates the feasibility of implementing the ETS [Emergency Temporary Standard],” it said, calling the petitioners’ concerns “speculative.”
In New Orleans, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ordered last month that the Biden administration cease implementing and enforcing that order. A three-judge panel led by Judge Kurt Englehardt found the requirements “overbroad” and raised “serious constitutional concerns.”
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